Hosanna! Save Us!

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TITLE:  Hosanna!  Save Us!   SCRIPTURE:  Mark 11:1-11

Jesus told two disciples to go into the village.  There they would find a colt tied to a door.  They were to untie the colt and bring it to Jesus.  If anyone questioned them, they were to say simply:

The Lord needs it….

How do you suppose these disciples felt?  How would you feel if Jesus said to you, "You will find a white Lexus with the keys in the ignition at the corner of Alvarado and Franklin.  Bring it to me!"  I don't know about you, but I would be a bit uncomfortable!  My guess is that the disciples were a bit uncomfortable too.  They might as well have had T-shirts that read "Horse-thieves for Jesus!"

But Jesus made it easier.  He sent two disciples.  He told them what to say.  Furthermore, they knew Jesus and trusted him.  They were willing to obey him.  They had seen him do wonderful things, and did not believe that he would lead them astray.  They went to town, as ordered, and returned with the colt.

In this story, we have two accounts of obedience.  First, the two disciples brought back the colt.  Second, the colt's owner allowed Jesus' claim.  "The Lord has need of it!"  That was enough!  Perhaps the owner had heard of Jesus.  Perhaps he knew Jesus.  At any rate, he allowed the disciples to take the colt.  "The Lord has need of it."  That's all he needed to hear.

What would our world be like if everyone responded to Jesus like that? 

    - Lord, you want me to feed the hungry!  No problem! 

    - Lord, you want me to sing in the choir!  No problem! 

    - Lord, you want me to invite my neighbor to church!  No problem! 

    - Lord, you want me to go to serve as a deacon!  No problem!

    - Lord, you want me to tithe!  No problem!

On that first Palm Sunday, both the disciples and the colt's owner did what Jesus wanted them to do, and that made the difference. 

It always makes a difference when we do what Jesus wants us to do -- when we are willing to submit to his will without question.  William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, did wonderful things.  Someone asked  him the secret of his success.  He answered,

    I'll tell you a secret. 

    God has had all there was of me…. 

    If there is any power in the Salvation Army today,

    it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart,

    all the power of my will,

    and all the influence of my life.

Florence Nightingale established the profession of nursing.  We have all benefited from her work.  Someone asked her the secret of her success.  She answered:

    I have never refused God anything!

James Calvert was a missionary to the Fiji Islands.  He worked among cannibals there.  The captain of his ship tried to persuade him to turn back.  He warned:

    You will lose your life

    and the lives of those with you

    if you go among such savages. 

Calvert replied,

    We died before we came here.

And so the William Booths -- and the Florence Nightingales --and the James Calverts-- make this a better world because of their obedience to Jesus Christ.

And so Jesus was able to ride into Jerusalem to the acclamation of the crowds because of the obedience of the two disciples whom he had sent to get the colt -- and the obedience of the owner of the colt.

The ride into Jerusalem was important.  Through the centuries, Christians have remembered Palm Sunday as something special.  It is the coming of the King of Kings, not only to Jerusalem, but into our lives as well. 

The people greeted Jesus as a King.  "Hosanna!" they shouted.  "Save us!"  They paved the road ahead of him with palm branches and clothing, so that Jesus might be spared the dust that usually accompanied such processions.  It was a royal welcome -- a ticker-tape parade -- a presidential inauguration.

"Hosanna!  Save us!"  The people were excited, because they thought that Jesus was another David -- another great king who would save them from the Romans. 

    - They expected Jesus to form an army.

    - They expected him to drive the Romans out of their land.

"Hosanna! Save us!"  Jesus had come to do just that, but they would find it difficult to recognize his salvation.  Jesus would save them from a cross.  They could never have imagined that he would save them from a cross.  They were looking for salvation in strong places.  He would save them from the weakness of the cross. 

Several years ago, a movie entitled Babette's Feast made a stir.  Babette was a French chef who fled Paris to live in Norway.  She found a job there cooking for a small Christian community headed by two women -- daughters of the minister who had founded the community.  The minister had died some years before.  The community, once dynamic and vibrant, had turned quarrelsome and petty since his passing.

Babette worked incognito.  Nobody knew that she was a great chef.  The sisters told her what to cook and how to cook it.  Babette did as she was told.  The food was terrible!

Babette's dream was to win the lottery so that she could return home to France.  Every year she bought a lottery ticket.  Each year she lost.  But then, finally, she won.  Her prize was ten thousand francs.  Now she could go home.

But first Babette offered a gift to this little Christian community.  Soon the community would be observing the birthday of their founding pastor, and Babette offered to cook a grand dinner for the occasion. 

The sisters didn't like the idea.  They couldn't imagine the community dining on rich food and drinking French wine, but they don't know how to say no.  Reluctantly, they agreed to the meal -- but they determined not to enjoy it.  If they didn't enjoy it, surely God would not be offended.  Babette ordered the food from France.  She ordered the best food and the finest wines. 

On the day of the dinner, a famous general visited the community and stayed for dinner.  The dinner began with a glass of wine.  The general observed the wine's color, and raised the glass to his nose.  He took a sip.  He remarked, "This is very strange!  Amontillado -- and the finest Amontillado I have ever tasted!"  The crowd pretended not to hear.  All through the meal, the general commented about the excellence of this dish or that -- this wine or that.  The crowd pretended not to hear.

The people were careful not to enjoy the food but, as the evening wore on, they changed.  Dinner was usually a quiet and tense affair, but it was different this night.  The people relaxed and talked.  They even found themselves commenting now and then on the food.  Something wonderful had happened.  The meal had become a sacrament, and the community had become a community again, brought together by Babette's feast.

At the end of the feast, the sisters learned that Babette had spent the entire prize on the dinner.  She would not be able to return to France.  She had held her dream in her hands, but now it was lost forever.  The sisters were dumbstruck.  They did not know what to say!

And so are we struck dumb by Jesus' extravagance.  Jesus came from heaven to live among us.  He gave up everything heavenly to live an earthly life.  He lived much of his life in obscurity. 

Then people began to notice Jesus.  He began to attract crowds.  He taught, and people listened.  He worked miracles, and people marveled.  Soon he had a following.  Sometimes the crowds numbered in the thousands.  Sometimes Jesus had to escape into the wilderness just to be by himself -- to get his head together -- to pray. 

There was real power in the crowds.  They believed in him.  They would do what he told them to do.  Jesus was becoming a force to be reckoned with.  Perhaps he would even form his own army.  People hated the Romans.  They were ready for a leader to head the resistance.

It all came to a head on Palm Sunday.  Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the Holy City, as a king rides into a conquered city.  People cheered!  They lined his path with palm branches and articles of clothing!  They waited for Jesus to reveal his power.

This was Jesus' moment!  The prize was his!  The people were excited.  "Hosanna!" they cried.  "Save us!"  But then events turned in a direction which they had not foreseen.  The authorities arrested Jesus.  Politicians stirred up the crowds against him.  The crowd had shouted "Hosanna!"  Now the crowd shouted "Crucify him!" 

Before the week was over, Jesus did reveal his power -- God's power -- but he did it from a cross.  The crowds had expected one thing, but Jesus gave them another.  They were surprised -- dumbfounded -- speechless.  They did not know what to think -- much less what to say.  They had reached the end of the story, and Jesus was dead.  There was nothing left to say!  It was over!

We, of course, know the rest of the story.  Palm Sunday was not the end, and neither was Good Friday.  Jesus would yet have the last word.  The people had shouted, "Hosanna!  Save us!" and Jesus would do just that -- at Easter!

As we go through life, we have our Palm Sundays -- exciting, joyful, full-of-hope days.  We also have our Good Fridays -- those terrible, hopeless days.  Wherever we are in our journey, let us remember Jesus' journey.  The people shouted "Hosanna!  Save us!" and he did save them. 

He saves us too!  Not always in the way that we expect, but he saves us!  That is his gift to us!  As we go through this Holy Week, let us remember Jesus' journey from the cheers of Palm Sunday to the cross of Good Friday.  Let us also remember that, no matter how exciting or terrible life might seem, Jesus' last word is our salvation!

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